Arts & Culture

Ballet Philippines' Romeo & Juliet Tells Shakespeare's Tragic Love Story With Music and Movements

Catch it for one more weekend this February.
IMAGE JOJO MAMANGUN
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“For never was a story or more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo,” William Shakespeare writes, closing what would, perhaps, be the very novel that has become synonymous to the Bard’s name.

The tragedy of Romeo & Juliet is not an easy one to re-tell, and one can imagine the weight of having to tell it without the luxury of words. National Artist for Dance and Ballet Philippines' Alice Reyes took on the feat by creating her own choreography and staging the story as a full-length ballet initially in 1981.

“The opportunity to choreograph a new full-length ballet production of Romeo & Juliet fell into my lap by pure accident,” Reyes said. 

“Seldom does one get to work with music so moving and grand as Prokofiev’s score for the ballet. And where do you find a scenario better than one from Shakespeare. It was also to be my first work in the classical ballet idiom,” she adds. As with most things Alice Reyes touches, it turned into gold. She now remembers the experience as one of the “most enjoyable” ones of her career. 

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Reyes chose to revive the retelling of the star-crossed lovers for the 49th season of Ballet Philippines and she chose the week of Valentine’s Day to do it. It was evident that this production was going to be a big deal by the choice of date, the shows with live orchestra, and finally, the dancers. BP always had a strong repertoire of talent, but the group went the extra mile and enlisted the return of international ballet superstar Joseph Gatti. (For those of you who follow the ballet shows, Gatti had just danced for the company in last season’s unforgettable production of Don Quixote, which coincidentally premiered around this same time last year). 


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Joseph Gatti in last year's Don Quixote production

During the first weekend of its premiere, the theater was packed. The dimming of lights came with the lulling of voices from the audience. The houses of Montague and Capulet entered with a fight scene, and a casualty within minutes from when the red curtains rose.

Although his part was brief, we get a glimpse of our Romeo in battle. The next scene takes us to Juliet’s quarters, where she plays a game of hide-and-seek with her dedicated nurse.

It was refreshing to see BP principal dancer Denise Parungao in such a playful and childish role when we usually get to see her cast in more serious roles such as the Swan Princess in Swan Lake or as last year’s Carmen. (Also spotted on stage was Jemima Reyes as a lady-in-waiting, whose sprightly dancing may be witnessed by audiences when they watch her take on the lead role in afternoon performances).  

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Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad

The first act, particulary the masquerade ball, was longer than expected but it gave the audience a chance to attach themselves to the characters. The nurse provided comical relief, as did Romeo’s kinsman. The lovable trio, Romeo included, had an evident harmony that would fool anyone in thinking that they were friends in real life. There was also the promise of a wonderful set, which was designed by Salvador Bernal that held our attention. 

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Denise Parungao as Juliet

By the start of the second act, things began to pick up. Parungao and Gatti possessed such bubbling chemistry on stage, both exhibiting a coherent lightness on their feet and the ability to maneuver from one move to another with such ease and grace. After a 15-minute act, it was time for an intermission once more, signaling that the production was far from over.

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The final act was short and sweet. Similar to its written source, the audience was allowed ample time to witness both heroes lament over their partner's demise. As Romeo discovered his lover's lifeless body on a pedestal, he picks up her corpse and begins to dance with it, our Juliet still perfectly malleable and guided by Gatti without appearing limp.

Juliet awakens and for a few moments, we see her rejoice, knowing that Romeo was around but makes a complete 180 when she finds Romeo on the ground. Audiences are left with the heart-breaking image of both our heroes dead on stage, without the narrator's parting words.


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Ronelson Yadao and Monica Gana also take on the role of the star-crossed lovers

For tickets and more information, visit ticketworld.com.ph.

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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